Parashat Vayetzei opens with the dramatic journey of one Jew alone, who leaves his home for a stange land. By his own testimony, he arrived with nothing but his walking stick. Nevertheless, he was filled with optimism and confidence, because he trusted G‑d unconditionally. Even when the situation worsened, when his own relatives were ready to deceive him, his faith still did not waiver. And we see the results: through this faith and confidence Jacob merited great wealth. But more important, each of his children, the fathers of the 12 tribes, turned out to be exemplary - each one connected spiritually to G‑d.

Let us look a little deeper. Abraham had a good son, Isaac, but he also had Ishmael. Isaac had a good son, Jacob, and another son, Esau. This is really peculiar, because both of our forefathers raised their children in Israel, the Holy Land, a protected, special environment. On the other hand, Jacob not only lived and established his family outside of Israel (in exile), but he and his wives had to constantly worry that their 12 sons should not learn from or be affected by the customs and habits of the local people. What was his secret? His absolute faith in G‑d…

In fact, Jacob made sure to fill his children with Jewish knowledge, which he himself had previously received from his father and from his great-grandfathers, Shem and Eber. Jacob succeeded in the two areas in which each of us wishes to attain success: in physical things, and in his more spiritual endeavors. What was his secret? His absolute faith in G‑d. Each of us has to look at our lives and realize that we have nothing to rely upon but our Father in heaven.

The Baal Shem Tov comments on Jacob's famous dream of a ladder resting on the ground, its top reaching the heavens, angels going up and down on it. He points out that the numerical value of the word "ladder" (in Hebrew, "sulam") is 136, the same as the word for "money" ("mamon").Money either elevates us or drags us down. Let us be counted among those who are raised up.

The Shelah begins his weekly discussion commenting on the obligation of an employer to pay salaries - a commandment that we learn from Jacob's experience with his uncle Laban, who constantly tried to cheat him of his fair wage. This also applies to each of us in our relationship with G‑d. If we do our job and fulfill what the Almighty requires of us, then G‑d, our employer (see Ethic of the Fathers 2:15-16), by His own command, is required to give us our due reward - not sometime in the future, but now.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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